Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

m

[merged small][ocr errors]

faith herein. That he built up others in the same persuasion, to the enjoyment of the same peace and assurance with himself, is undeniable. And if there be any demonstration to be made of the belief of the first Christians, if any evidence comparable unto this, I shall not deny but that it ought to be attended unto. But that we may not seem willing to decline the consideration of what those who went before us in the several ages and generations past apprehended, and have by any means communicated unto us of their thoughts, about the business of our contest (having no reason so to be), I shall, after a little preparation made to that work, present the reader with something of my observations to that end and purpose.

Of the authority of the ancients in matters of religion and the worship of God, of the right use and improvement of their writings, of the several considerations that are to be had and exercised by them who would read them with profit and advantage, after many disputes and contests between the Papists and divines of the reformed churches, the whole concernment of that controversy is so clearly stated, managed, and resolved by Monsieur Daillé, in his book of the “ Right Use of the Fathers,” that I suppose all farther labour in that kind may be well spared. Those who intend to weigh their testimony to any head of Christian doctrine do commonly distinguish them into three great periods of time. The first of these is comprehensive of them who lived and wrote before the doctrine concerning which they are called out to give in their thoughts and verdict had received any signal opposition, and eminent discussion in the church on that account. Such are the writers of the first three hundred years, before the Nicene council, in reference to the doctrine of the Trinity; and so the succeeding writers, before the stating of the Macedonian, Eutychian, and Nestorian heresies. In the next are they ranked who bare the burden and heat of the opposition made to any truth, and on that occasion wrote expressly and at large on the controverted doctrines; which is the condition of Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, and some others, in that Arian controversy. And in the last place succeed those who lived after such concussions, which are of less or more esteem, according as the doctrines inquired after were less or more corrupted in the general apostasy of the latter days. According to this order, our first period of time will end with the rise of the Pelagian heresy, which gave occasion to the thorough, full, and clear discussion of the whole doctrine concerning the grace of God, whereof that in whose defence we are engaged is no small portion; the next, of those whom God raised up to make head against that subtle opposer of his grace, with his followers, during the space of a hundred years and somewhat onwards ensuing the promulgation of that heresy. What have been the thoughts of men in the latter ages until the Reformation, and of the Romanists since to this day, manifested in a few pregnant instances, will take up the third part of this design. Of the judgment of the Reformed Churches, as they are commonly called, I shall speak particularly in the close of this discourse. For the first of these: Not to insist on the paucity of writers in the first three hundred years, sundry single persons in the following ages have severally written three times as much as we have left and remaining of all the others (the names of many who are said to have written being preserved by Eusebius, Eccles. Hist., and Hierom, Lib. de Script., their writings being perished in their days), nor in general of that corruption whereunto they have almost every one of them been unquestionably exposed, I must be forced to preface the nomination of them with some considerations:

1. The first [consideration will be found] in that known passage of Hege

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

a

sippus, in Euseb. Hist. Eccles., lib. iii. cap. xxxii.:'ns äga hérgi pāv Fóre xpóνων, παρθένος καθαρά και αδιάφθορος έμεινεν η εκκλησία-είς δ' ο ιερός των αποσ

: τόλων χορός διάφορον ελληφει του βίου τέλος, παρεληλύθει τε η γενεά εκείνη των αυταίς ακοαϊς της ενθέου σοφίας επακούσαι καταξιωμένων, τηνικαύτα της αθέου πλάνης την αρχήν ελάμβανεν η σύστασις, διά της των ετεροδιδασκάλων απάτης, οι και, άτε μηδενός έτι των αποστόλων λειπομένου, γυμνή λοιπόν ήδη τη κεφαλή τω της αληθείας κηρύγματι την ψευδώνυμον γνώσιν άντικηρύττειν επεχείρουν. So far he, setting out the corruption of the church, even as to doctrine, immediately after the apostles fell asleep; whereof whosoever will impartially, and with disengaged judgment, search into the writings of those days that do remain, will perhaps find more cause than is commonly imagined with him to complain.

2. The main work of the writers of the first ages being to contend with heathenish idolaters, to convince them of their madness and folly; to write apologies for the worship of God in Christ in general, so to dissuade their rulers from persecution; or in contesting with heretics, for the most part appearing to be men either corrupt in their lives, or mad and brain-sick, as we say, as to their imaginations, or denying the truth of the person of Christ,—what can we expect from them as delivered directly and on set purpose to the matter of our present contest ? Some principles may in them possibly be discovered from whence, by a regular deduction, some light may be obtained into their thoughts concerning the points in difference. Thus Junius thinks, and not without cause, that the whole business of predestination may be stated upon this one principle, “ That faith is the free gift of God, flowing from his predestination and mercy;" and concerning this he saith, “ Hoc autem omnes patres uno consensu ex Christo et Paulo agnoverunt; ipse Justinus Martyr in Apolog. ii., et gravissime vero Clemens Alexandrinus, in hac alioquin palæstra non ita exercitatus ut sequentia secula,” Hom., lib. ii. “ Basilii et Valentini dogma esse dicit, quod fides a natura sit,” Consid. Senten. Pet. Baroni. Without this what advantage can be taken, or what use can be made, for the discovery of the mind of any of the ancients, by cropping off some occasional expressions from their occasions and aims, I know not. Especially would I more peremptorily affirm this could I imagine any of them wrote as Jerome affirms of himself that he sometimes did, Epist. ad August., which is among his epistles, lxxxix. T. 2. “ Itaque,” saith he, “ut simpliciter fateor, legi hæc omnia, et in mente mea plurima coacervans, accito notario vel mea, vel aliena dictavi, nec ordinis, nec verborum interdum nec sensuum memor." Should any one say so of himself in these days, he would be accounted little better than a madman. Much, then, on this account (or at least not much to the purpose) is not to be expected from the fathers of the first ages.

3. Another observation to our purpose lies well expressed in the beginning of the 14th chapter of Bellarmine's second book de Grat. et Lib. Arbit. “ Præter Scripturas adferunt alia testimonia patrum," saith he, speaking of those who opposed God's free predestination; to which he subjoins, “Neque est hoc novum argumentum, sed antiquissimum. Scribit enim S. Prosper in Epistola ad S. Augustinum, Gallos qui sententiam ejusdem Augustini de predestinatione calumniabantur, illud potissimum objicere solitos quod ea sententia doctrinæ veterum videbatur esse contraria. Sed respondet idem Augustinus in Lib. de Bono Perseverantiæ, veteres patres, qui ante Pelagium floruerunt, quæstionem istam nunquam accurate tractasse sed incidenter solum, et quasi per transitum illam attigisse. Addit vero, in fundamento hujus sententiæ (quod est gratiam Dei non præveniri

ab ullo opere nostro sed contra, ab illa omnia opera nostra præveniri, ita ut nihil omnino boni, quod attinet ad salutem sit in nobis, quod non est nobis ex Deo), convenire Catholicos omnes; et ibidem citat Cyprianum, Ambrosium, et Nazianzenum, quibus addere possumus Basilium et Chrysostomum.” To the same purpose, with application to a particular person, doth that great and holy doctor discourse, De Doctrin. Christiana, lib. iii. cap. xxxiii. Saith he, “Non erat expertus hanc hæresin Tychonius, quæ nostro tempore exorta, multum nos, ut gratiam Dei, quæ per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum est, adversus eam defenderemus exercuit, et secundum id quod ait apostolus,“ oportet hæreses esse, ut probati manifesti fiunt in nobis,” multo vigilantiores, diligentioresque reddidit, ut adverteremus in Scripturis sanctis, quod istum Tychonium minus attentum minusque, sine hoste solicitum fugit.” That also of Jerome in his second Apology against Rufinus, in reference to a most weighty article of Christian religion, is known to all. “ Fieri potest,” saith he,“ ut vel simpliciter erraverint, vel alio sensu scripserint, vel a librariis imperitis corum paulatim scripta corrupta sint; vel certe antequam in Alexandria, quasi dæmonium meridianum, Arius nasceretur, innocenter quædam, et minus caute locuti sunt, et quæ non possunt perversorum hominum calumniam declinare.” And what he spake of the writers before Arius in reference to the person of Christ, we may of them before Pelagius in reference to his grace. Hence Pererius, in Rom. cap. viii., disput. 22, tells us (how truly ipse viderit, I am not altogether of his mind) that [as] for those authors that lived before Austin's time, all the Greek fathers, and a considerable part of the Latin, were of opinion that the cause of predestination was the foresight which God had either of men's good works or of their faith; either of which opinions, he assures us, is manifestly contrary to the authority of the Scriptures, and particularly to the doctrine of St Paul. I am not, as I said, wholly of his mind, partly upon the account of the observations made by his fellow-Jesuit out of Austin, before mentioned, partly upon other accounts also. Upon these and the like considerations, much, I presume, to the business in hand will not be produced on either side from the fathers that wrote before the rise of the Pelagian heresy. And if any one of the parties at this day litigant about the doctrine of the grace of God should give that advice that Sisinius and Agelius the Novatians sometiines gave, as Sozomen reports of them (Hist. Eccles., lib. vii. cap. xii.), to Nectarius, by him communicated the emperor Theodosius, to have the quarrel decided by those that wrote before the rise of the controversy, as it would be unreasonable in itself, so I persuade myself neither party would accept of the condition, neither had the Catholics of those days got any thing if they had attended to the advice of these Novatians. But, these few observations premised, something as to particular testimonies may be attended unto.

That we may proceed in some order, not leaving those we have nothing to say to, nor are willing to examine, whilst they are but thin and come not in troops, unsaluted,

the first writings that are imposed on us after the canonical Scriptures are the eight books of Clemens, commonly called the Apostles' Constitutions, being pretended to be written by him at their appointment, with the Canons ascribed to the same persons. These we shall but salute: for besides that they are faintly defended by any of the Papists, disavowed and disclaimed as apocryphal by the most learned of them, as Bellarmine, De Script. Eccles. in Clem., who approves only of fifty canons out of eighty-five; Baronius, An. Dom. 102, 14, who adds thirty more; and Binius, with a little enlargement of canons, in Tit. Can. T. I,

a

Con. p. 17; and have been thoroughly disproved and decried by all protestant writers that have had any occasion to deal with them; their folly and falsity, their impostures and triflings, have of late been so fully manifested by Dallæus, De Pseudepigraphis Apostol., that nothing need be added thereunto. Of him may Doctor H. H.- learn the truth of that insinuation of his, Dissert. de Episcop. ii. cap. vi. sect. 3, “ Canone apostolico secundo semper inter genuinos habito;" but of the confidence of this author in his assertions afterward. This, indeed (insisted on by Dallæus, and the learned Usher in his notes upon Ignatius), is childishly ridiculous in them, that whereas it is pretended that these Constitutions were made at a convention of the apostles, as lib. vi. cap. xiv., they are brought in discoursing Muers Oův επί το αυτό γενόμενοι, Πέτρος και Ανδρέας, Ιάκωβος και Ιωάννης υιοί Ζεζεδαίου, etc. They are made to inform us, lib. ii. cap. lvii., that the Acts written by Luke and read in the churches are theirs, and the four books of the Gospel; whereas the story of the death of James (here said to be together with the apostles) is related Acts xii., and John, by the consent of all, wrote not his Gospel until after the dissolution of his associates. Also, they make Stephen and Paul to be together at the making of those, Constitutions, lib. viii. cap. iv. (whereas the martyrdom of Stephen was before the conversion of Paul), and yet also mention the stoning of Stephen, lib. viii. cap. xlvi. They tell us whom they appointed bishops of Jerusalem after the death of James, and yet James is one of them who is met together with them, lib. vii. cap. xlviii. Nay, mention is made of Cerinthus, and that Mark the heretic, Menander, Basilides, and Saturninus, were known and taken notice of by the apostles, who all lived in the second century, about the reign of Hadrian, as Eusebius manifesteth, and Clem. Alex., Strom., lib. vii.

But, to leave such husks as these unto them who loathe manna, and will not feed on the bread that our heavenly Father hath so plentifully provided for all that live in his family or any way belong to his house, let us look onward to them that follow, of whose truth and honesty we have more assurance.

The first genuine piece that presents itself unto us on the roll of antiquity is that epistle of CLEMENS which, in the name of the church of Rome, he wrote to the divided church of Corinth; which being abundantly testified to of old, to the great contentment of the Christian world, was published here at Oxford some few years since,-a writing full of ancient simplicity, humility, and zeal. As to our present business, much, I confess, cannot be pleaded from hence, beyond a negative impeachment of that great and false clamour which our adversaries have raised, of the consent of the primitive Christians with them in their by-paths and ways of error. It is true, treating of a subject diverse from any of those heads of religion about which our contests are, it is not to be expected that he should anywhere plainly, directly, and evidently, deliver his judgment unto them. This, therefore, I shall only say, that in that whole epistle there is not one word, iota, or syllable, that gives countenance to the tenet of our adversaries in the matter of the saints' perseverance; but that, on the contrary, there are sundry expressions asserting such a foundation of the doctrine we maintain as will with good strength infer the truth of it. Page 4, setting forth the virtues of the Corinthians before they fell into the schism that occasioned his epistle, he minds them that day of vw nueρας τε και νυκτός υπέρ πάσης της αδελφότητος, εις το σώζεσθαι μετ' ελέους και

· The initials of Henry Hammond. An account of Owen's controversy with him will be found in a note at the end of the preface.-Ed.

συνειδήσεως τον αριθμόν των εκλεκτών αυτού. That God hath a certain number of elect to be saved, and for whose salvation, by his mercy, the church is to contend with him, is a principle wholly inconsistent with those on which the doctrine of the saints

' apostasy is bottomed. Corresponding hereunto is that passage of his concerning the will of God, p. 12: Távras ούν τους αγαπητούς αυτού βουλόμενος μετανοίας μετασχεϊν, έστήριξεν τω παντοκρατορική βουλήματι αυτού. A mere consideration of this passage causeth me to recall what but now was spoken, as though the testimony given to the truth in this epistle were not so clear as might be desired. The words now repeated contain the very thesis contended for. It is the beloved of God (or his chosen) whom he will have made partakers of saving repentance; and hereunto “he establisheth them” (for with that word is the defect in the sentence to be supplied) “ by," or with, “the almighty will." Because he will have his beloved partakers of saving repentance and the benefits thereof, he confirms and establishes them in it with his omnipotent or sovereign will. The inconsistency and irreconcilableness of this assertion with the doctrine of these saints' apostasy, the learned reader needs not any assistance to manifest to him. Answerably hereunto he saith of God, 'Εκλογής μέρος (ημάς) εποίησεν εαυτώ, p. 38 and p. 66: mentioning the blessedness of the forgiveness of sins, out of Ps. xxxii., he adds, Ούτος ο μακαρισμός εγένετο επί τους εκλελεγμένους υπό του Θεού διά Ιησού Χριστού του Κυρίου ημών. The elect of whom he speaks are those on whom, through and for Christ, God bestows the blessedness of justification; elect they are of God antecedently to the obtaining of that blessedness, and through that they do obtain it: so that in that short sentence of this author, the great pillar of the saints' perseverance, which is their free election, the root of all the blessedness which afterward they enjoy, is established. Other passages like to these there are in that epistle; which plainly deliver the primitive Christians of the church of Rome from any communion in the doctrine of the saints' apostasy, and manifest their perseverance in the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, wherein they had been so plentifully instructed, not long before, by the epistle of Paul unto them.

He who upon the roll of antiquity presents himself in the next place to our consideration is the renowned Ignatius, concerning whom I desire to beg so much favour of the learned reader as to allow me a diversion unto some thoughts and observations that belong to another subject than that which I have now peculiarly in hand, before I come to give him a taste of his judgment on the doctrine under debate.

As this Ignatius, bishop of the church at Antioch, was in himself a man of an excellent spirit, eminent in holiness, and to whom, on the behalf of Christ, it was given not only to believe on him, but also suffer for him, and on that account of very great and high esteem among the Christians of that age wherein he lived, and sundry others following, so no great question can be made but that he wrote, towards the end of his pilgrimage, when he was on his way to be offered up, through the Holy Spirit, by the mouths of wild beasts, to Jesus Christ, sundry epistles to sundry churches that were of chiefest note and name in the countries about. The concurrent testimony of the ancients in this matter of fact will give as good assurance as in this kind we are capable of; Eusebius reckons them up in order, so doth Jerome.

After them frequent mention is made of them by others, and special sayings in them are transcribed; and whereas it is urged by some that there is no mention of those epistles before the Nicene council,-before

« PreviousContinue »